It’s group therapy – but not as you know it!
Problem Central, the latest show from independent theatre company Spangled Aura Productions, has the unlikely setting of a group therapy session. A dysfunctional cast of characters with a range of different issues comes together to provide an intimate evening of theatre unlike anything you will have experienced before. Part comedy, part serious drama, this interactive production is part of Mental Health Week, and aims to break the social taboo that still exists around mental illness and addiction.
‘It’s ridiculous that there is so much stigma attached to mental illness, self-harm and addiction,’ says Spangled Aura’s artistic director Sarah Good. ‘I wanted to do something to challenge people’s perceptions and get people talking about these issues.’
Many people would be nervous about putting on a show dealing with such sensitive subjects.
‘Many people have asked why I think people will want to watch a bunch of crazy people. That’s kind of the point though – these characters aren’t crazy; they’re all determined, intelligent people who are dealing with tricky situations in the best ways they can. Everyone will be able to relate to a character or situation in the play, because whether we like it or not, sanity is only a very thin line.’
The intimate show has a maximum of 25 to 30 seats at each venue, meaning the audience are right in on the action of the play.
‘It’s quite confronting for some of the audience, but that’s okay. However people react we just go with it. It’s a safe environment and no-one is going to judge if someone does have an emotional response to the show. Last year we had someone stand up and introduce themselves; one person started crying; and one person watched from the doorway because they were claustrophobic and didn’t want to come in. The audience reactions make it more of a challenge but also a lot of fun for us, because every show is different.’
If you’re thinking it all sounds far too serious, you’d be wrong. While the show deals with a lot of serious issues, there’s plenty of comedy too. Between Annie’s manic obsession with everyone else’s sex-lives, Jake’s attempts to cheer up the group, and Carla’s chaotic group leadership skills, there’s plenty to keep audiences laughing. It’s a serious issue-based play but with an overdose of comedy.
This original production initially ran for three days in Brisbane in early 2012, and this year will be touring to 14 venues around southeast Queensland and northern New South Wales. It’s a big undertaking for a small company that is entirely self-funded and relies solely on ticket sales to pay for all their production costs, but the company are excited about the prospect. ‘We’re excited that so many people in different places will get the Problem Central experience, and hope that we can both educate and entertain. People should go away having had a great evening but with a better understanding of a few things. If that happens, we’ve done our job.’
The tour runs from September 19 to October 12 and is part of Mental Health Week and Caloundra Fringe.
Tickets $15 / concessions $12 are available via www.spangled-aura.com/box-office or cash only on the door (online booking advisable because of limited places). Enquiries phone Sarah on 0450 572 445 or email [email protected]
Spangled Aura Productions is an independent company based in the Moreton Bay area. Their 2013 season consists of 10 theatre shows and a concert series, and they generally perform in non-traditional theatre venues, such as scout huts, parks, galleries and warehouses.
Shows locally are:
Byron Bay Scout Den October 12 at 2pm
Murwillumbah Scout Den October 12 at 8pm (NSW time).